A rose by any other name, a milonga in any other venue
I’d heard the rumours when I was back in Melbourne. Cachirulo had moved to Villa Malcolm. Even 12000 klms away, that just sounded incongruous. Villa Malcolm was at the heart of nuevo tango. All the beautiful young things went there, those too young to have felt the need for plastic surgery, those that were experimenting with wild outrageous moves involving an embrace that moved fluidly between fully closed, and dramatically open, and even off axis. Snooty little porteñas who wouldn’t condescend to look at a gringo let alone dance with one. Arrogant porteños who cared more about how freaking hot they looked on the dance floor, than who they bumped into when trying to lead their latest DNI inspired sequence. Cachirulo was in comparison the ‘ultra-orthodoxy’ of tango. The rules posted on the wall at the former venue, Maipu 444 stated: “We dance strictly milonguero style”, “We follow the line of dance” “heels stay on the ground”, “we use the cabaceo to invite” etc…. The organizers Hector and Norma were very strict about this. I even have a friend who dances nuevo and made the mistake of venturing to Cachirulo be asked to leave if he insisted on dancing open embrace. As opposed to the lasa fair first come first served approach to seating at a normal Villa Malcolm night, Hector insisted on seating everyone explicitly in a spot that he felt best suited… (I want to say them, but I can’t, the seating arrangements at Cachirulo serve the milonga more than any individual). I have heard Hector referred to as a “tango Nazi”. Regardless of your feelings on all of the protocols and traditions of Cachirulo, it attracts some of the best social tango dancers in Buenos Aires, and as such fast became one of my favourite milongas. I spent 7 months going every Saturday night to this milonga back in 2008-2009, many times arriving at around 8pm and staying ‘til they played La Cumparsita (some time around 4:30am). Even managed to get invited to their Christmas party in L’anus. Sure, there were still some egos, and attitudes, but I consistently had fantastic dances at Cachirulo, and the DJ there, ‘Carlos Rey’ became my favourite DJ in Buenos Aires.
It was with more than a little apprehension that I ventured to Villa Malcolm last Saturday night to see for myself. I received a very warm welcome from the organisers, and after chatting a little, Hector showed me to a reasonably good seat on the men’s wall. As I sat down I began to notice the lengths they had gone to to make it look and feel like Cachirulo in Maipu. The seating had been arranged exactly how it was in Maipu, and the tables had been covered in a similar style. There was of course the wall of women on the opposite side of the dance floor to the wall of men. For a few seconds I even forgot that I was in Villa Malcolm as I looked around at some of the familiar faces. Milongueros came up to me and greeted me with the traditional Argentine kiss on the cheek. One even said to me in spanish, “You returned”, and then followed it up with “It’s like a drug no?”
I looked around again, and saw Villa Malcolm, and it just felt so bizarre, like a collision of cultures. I couldn’t forget the poor night I had here just over a week ago at the infamous “Tango Cool”, being snubbed by the snooty porteñas, and began to worry that I may have similar fate tonight. The fearing that it was the venue itself that was jinxed was hard to shake, plus it had been over 2 years since I was last here. I saw one of my old favourites dancing with her regular partner, and smiled at her as she danced past. She returned the smile. This gave me confidence, and next tanda saw me dancing with this wonderful woman. Carlos Rey was still spinning the discs, and as the night wore on, and I had some wonderful dances, I began to realise that a milonga has very little to do with the venue, and much more to do with the organisers, the DJ, the day of the week, and the people it attracts.
So I guess it’s no surprise where I’m heading this Saturday night.